Sometimes it's liberating to have a formal diagnosis of depression, or even to self-diagnose, because it can bring the symptoms into focus. Depression is an illness that transcends the artificial barrier we place between mind and body; it begs for a single word that describes both concepts so as to avoid the idea that "it's in your head."
Of course, it is in your head. Once, when I was explaining it to a friend, I said, "I know that if I make a conscious decision not to be paralyzed by this, it will happen. I know that emotions drive physical reactions, and physical states likewise elicit emotions, like how smiling can make you feel happier and being happy can make you smile. I know all these things, but it doesn't make it easier to decide to stop feeling this way."
Later, my friend said to me, "You're that way because you let it . . . whether you use the excuse of you can't help it or not, you control your mind and body, nobody else."
I don't disagree, but I found his position dismissive. Yes, I control it all, but we have yet to determine exactly how depression controls me. Why is it that understanding this concept isn't enough to cure me permanently? I don't accept that I'm defeatist. It's too pat an answer.
Rather, I suspect that some people are simply more susceptible to these kinds of physioemotional feedback loops than others. There's got to be a reason, a cause. I don't believe that anyone would choose -- even subconsciously -- to be miserable, any more than anyone would choose to be homosexual in a society that still largely disdains the practice of same-gender sexual gratification.
I don't talk about being depressed because I am weary of being dismissed as weak, or patronized because I am not strong, or sympathetically viewed as somehow flawed. Whether or not a specific event precipitates a depressive episode, the depression is not representative of a lack of willpower. I don't think I am alone in keeping to myself due to this widespread perception.